ARUSHA, Tanzania – Arusha is this week playing host to the first Pan-African Conference on Sustainable Tourism Management in National Parks and Protected Areas which has brought delegates from 50 different countries to Tanzania.
Taking place here from this Monday, October 15th to next Friday, October 19th the conference staged at the Arusha International Conference Centre, is being organized by the United Nations World Travel Organization (WTO) in collaboration with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.
Though few people remember, the 2012 Pan-African Conference on Sustainable Tourism Management in National Parks actually echoes the 1961 Pan-African symposium on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources in Modern African States. Everything about conservation in Tanzania was reportedly conceived during the Pan-African symposium on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources in Modern African States which took place here 51 years ago.
The meeting, was held in September 1961 at Arusha, in the then Tanganyika attracting nearly 140 participants from 21 African and 6 non-African countries, plus 5 international organizations. The then Prime Minister of Tanganyika Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and the Minister for Legal Affairs Abdallah Fundikira were in attendance.
Coincidentally, the first Pan- African conference is taking place within the week that Tanzania (formerly known as Tanganyika) observes the 13th anniversary of Mwalimu Nyerere’s death. Anyway, it was from the 1961 congress that the Arusha Manifesto was hatched and the document expresses in clear terms the intention of the host Government of Tanganyika toward the conservation and development of its wildlife and natural resources on behalf of the country itself and entire global community.
In his quest for the country’s independence Nyerere used to encourage local people in the then Tanganyika to support the course by saying, “Freedom will follow us the way the birds follow the rhinos to nestle on their backs!” Mwalimu repeated the words during the meeting which was held here using the just established, Arusha National Park as prime example. This is because in those days there were so many rhinos in the park and people used to see hundreds of them daily.
Of late, however the rhino species have totally been annihilated from Arusha National Park with the last one said to have been killed 27 years ago. It was during the same ‘Arusha Manifest’ meeting the then Governor of Tanganyika Sir Richard Turnbull, had pointed out that conservation can only be successful if local people were directly involved. “We have worked hard to achieve community participation but it is still not enough, if we had managed that by at least 90 per cent many of the disappeared wildlife and vegetation species would have been saved,” said Mr Felician Njau one of the conservators at Arusha National Park recently.
There are currently efforts to replenish Rhino populations in the local parks by importing species from Europe and South Africa, with Serengeti and Mkomazi National Parks being direct beneficiaries though more Rhinos are breeding naturally in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority.
The disappeared Rhinos at Arusha Park, the currently drying Lake Manyara, increased human activities in Ngorongoro Conservation Area, excessive poaching in Serengeti National Park and the receding glacier from Mount Kilimanjaro are clear indications of what has been going wrong in the country’s conservation in the past five decades. But the increase of National Parks from just three during the initial 1961 ‘Arusha Manifest’ meeting, to the current 15 as Tanzania hosts the 2012 Pan-African conference on tourism gives the positive side of the country’s conservation efforts.
Mr Lotta Melamari, the former Director General for Tanzania National Parks explained recently that the late Mwalimu set ball for the conservation efforts rolling in September 1961 when he announced the Arusha Manifest through which the global responsibility of conserving the world’s natural heritage found in the country was placed onto the then Tanganyika’s shoulders. Tanzania is endowed with rich natural growth, inland and marine wildlife species, scenic landscapes and water bodies include natural streams, rivers, lakes and a large portion of the Indian Ocean.
“In reality the rich Bionuwai and Biodiversity resources we have here that naturally packaged in National Parks, Game and Forest Reserves belong to the entire race of humanity, they just happen to have been placed here or entrusted to Tanzania by God and it is therefore our responsibility to take care of them,” Melamari maintained.
“The Arusha manifest announced three months before Tanganyika’s independence became the mother of all conservation policies that were later formulated to execute such responsibilities that nature gave us.” Tanzania National Parks was formed from among conservation policies that resulted from the manifest with its chief responsibility being executed under the Wildlife department in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.
And as 50 countries gather in Arusha this week, Tanzania already boasts over 30 per cent of its total 947,300 square kilometres being dedicated to National Parks and Games reserves. The country therefore tops other states in the world as far as conservation of natural resources is concerned. Today, Tanzania has a total of 15 National Parks with the 16th one (Saa Nane Island of Mwanza), in the making and about to be unveiled.